The months of October, November and December are when most vehicle collisions with deer take place. Deer are more active during these months because it is their breeding season. Though not always avoidable, there are some steps you can take to avoid hitting a deer.
Claims data from a large insurance company showed 2.3 million collisions occurred in the United States between 2008 and 2010. The insurer created a map of the country showing the risk of hitting a deer for each state, according to their own data. States like Michigan, West Virginia, and Iowa have some of the highest risks for deer collisions.
The first thing to do to reduce your risk of a deer collision is to do some online research about your area, or the places you normally drive and see if there are deer populations in those places. If you were aware of deer populations near your typical commute or other driving routes, you may want to consider choosing roads further away from deer concentrations if possible.
In the fall, with daylight savings time, commuters are likely to spend more time driving in darkness in the evenings and early morning, and that is prime deer activity time. So if you drive during those times, you may want to consider taking different roads if there are deer around — this includes trying to avoid roads through heavily forested areas, or with brush close to the road side.
If you can’t drive on different roads, simply lowering your speed while driving in areas with deer can give you more reaction time if you suddenly experience a deer right in front of your moving vehicle. Also going slower provides more reaction time for deer to move away from cars.
Honking at deer could scare them away if you see them on the side of the road ahead of you. Use the high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic, as they reach further down the road ahead of you, so you can see if the way is clear or not.
Hitting a deer while driving can cause significant damage to a vehicle and to its occupants. While rarely fatal, such accidents can cause roll-overs, and the striking of other objects such as telephone poles, trees, and fences when a driver is trying to avoid a deer, or after the collision due to panic, or obscured vision if the animal hits a windshield.
Paying attention to Deer Crossing signs is important because deer tend to use the same paths when they are looking for food or places to sleep during their normal daily movements. If you see one deer, there are probably others nearby because they travel in small groups.
If you suddenly see a deer and can’t avoid it, it is actually probably better to hit it, than swerving into another lane where you could hit another car, or hit a larger object like a tree or telephone pole. If you swerve suddenly to avoid a deer you might also lose control of your car. Hitting an animal with a car is a very unpleasant experience, but it is likely to be safer than making a heroic effort to avoid it and hitting something else.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Gene Oleynik / fnal.gov